Bartlesville task force forms to open emergency heated shelter

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. — As the weather gets colder, concern grows for those without a place to warm up. So several community organizations in Bartlesville are teaming up to help.

The issue has been on the minds of Kelley Becker, senior minister at Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, for some time. Especially after the winter storm last February. She was part of the group that came together to house people at the Westside Community Center.

“After we got through all of that, we thought it was over,” Becker said. “The thing in the back of my mind was like, okay, it’s over now, but it’s going to come back next year.”

Becker kept thinking about it until the fall when she met Lisa Cary, president and CEO of Bartlesville Regional United Way.

A conversation over coffee led to the creation of a new task force called “Home for the Night”. It is a collaboration between community members and organizations, including churches, nonprofits, mental health services, police, and other city and county departments.

“It’s us working together to find solutions for those who are most vulnerable,” Cary said.

Their short-term plan is to open a heated shelter at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Disciples Christian Church will also be open for a limited number of people. Shelters will be available when the temperature is 15 degrees or lower for 24 hours or more. They will also provide things like blankets, hats, and gloves.

The fairground space leaves more room for anyone who needs it and will allow those seeking shelter to bring their animals.

“It mattered to us because there are people who would be left outside in dangerous cold because they wouldn’t let their pets in,” Becker said.

Some have raised concerns about the Fairgrounds’ proximity to Dewey Public Schools, but Cary said they plan to train volunteers who will be on site for the duration of the shelter’s operation.

“We’re really conscious of making sure it’s a safe environment and having people volunteering at the warming center to be safe,” Cary said.

The task force does not know how many people need help. He plans to do a one-time count that will help find a long-term solution.

“It’s great to do these things in the short term, but if we don’t address the long-term issues, I think we’re doing a disservice not only to our community, but also to community members who are at risk. struggling with this problem”, Cary mentioned.

Cary and Becker said they would be ready to open the shelter the next time the temperature drops. In the meantime, they donate blankets to the Bartlesville police officers to distribute to those in need.

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